What happened when Prince Moonrise was forced to go somewhere over the rainbow.
Prince Moonrise glared at the open jug of enchanteurized milk on the kitchen counter and growled in frustration. Once, on a friend’s dare when he was still a carefree young bachelor, he had stared down a malevolent serpent that had the power to hypnotize prey with its eyes, but these days, when it came to enforcing discipline, he looked like the one who would blink. Even something as simple as getting the kids to put the milk back in the re-charmer before the spell-by date expired was beyond him.
And getting them to put the cracked golden goose egg shells in the royal alchemist’s recycling bin—that was another thing. How much value were they losing in the form of golden egg shells that got thrown in the trash? He didn’t want to calculate it. Although now that he thought of it, why would an alchemist need to recycle gold? That needed looking into.
Of course it wasn’t a fair fight. The children had the advantage of being uncivilized beasts untroubled by scruples while he had the disadvantage of being a sensitive modern patriarch who wasn’t inclined to teach them fear if they wouldn’t learn obedience.
Well, he was probably just in a bad mood because he had spent almost the whole morning trying to get the kids’ new crystal ball to sync with their joy-wands so the 9-year-old and 10-year-old could have another reason to get frustrated with each other and start fighting when they had a disagreement about who wasn’t playing fair in their favorite game, Infinite Joust.
Moonrise had tried all the tips in the troubleshooting guide. No matter what he did, the same “unable to read wish” message always appeared on the ball. Finally, in a fit of exasperated cursing, he performed a shutdown spell and then re-charmed the ball. Suddenly, the wands linked with the ball and the Infinite Joust game loaded. Maybe the dark magic of his cursing had more influence than he thought. A little utility tool to keep hidden in the back of his mind where his conscience couldn’t see it.
That problem solved, he turned around to walk away and found his five-year-old daughter Lantana standing there looking at him. No doubt she had overheard some of his choice words from the forbidden dark-magic dictionary and would end up repeating them at a time that would cause maximum social embarrassment, most likely a high feast with honored guests.
“Daddy,” she said, “I have a question.”
He braced himself for a dark phrase to come out of her formerly innocent mouth.
“Was I born on my birthday?”
“Yes, that’s what a birthday is,” he said, feeling vaguely relieved. “It means the day you were born.”
“Oh. So you were born on your birthday too?”
“Yay! We have something in common!”
Then she stood there looking at him with a curious, thoughtful expression.
“Is there something else?” he said.
“Oh yeah, I forgot my first question. Why didn’t the tooth fairy leave me anything last night?”
The tooth fairy! She lost her second tooth yesterday, but the prince forgot to put anything under her pillow. The real tooth fairy was actually a sprite, not a fairy, and she went out of business a few years ago after the fairy king sued her for trademark infringement of the fairy brand. Since then, parents had been left to carry on the tradition or tell their kids there was no tooth fairy, which would have raised all kinds of other questions they didn’t want to deal with, such as whether Santa Claus was real. That was absurd. Parents never would have invented a huge seasonal burden for themselves like Yuletide. Only the jolly old father of the season had enough mirth and merriment to try such a thing.
“Are you sure the tooth fairy didn’t come?” said Moonrise, his mind quickly spinning an alternate explanation for the tooth fairy’s no-show that would give him time to improvise. “It might have fallen down between your bed and the wall. Let’s go look.”
As they walked upstairs to the children’s wing of the castle, he felt around in his pockets for a suitable fairy gift and found two lucky gold coins minted by a fair-trade commune of leprechauns. This tooth being the second one his daughter had lost, two coins would be a fitting token of symbolism. Finding an easy solution was even more of a relief than not hearing his own cursing repeated by one of his children.
When they got to the bed, he made a show of digging around in the bedding and searching for a gift. Turning so she couldn’t see, he slipped his hand in his pocket to get the coins before reaching down between the mattress and the wall.
“Aha!” he said, pulling out his arm with a dramatic flourish. “What’s this?”
His open palm held the two coins. “See? You must have been moving around in your sleep, and the fairy’s gift fell down back there.”
“Oooooh,” she said. “Yay!” She grabbed the coins, spun around, and skipped out of the chamber.
Just then his magic crystal ball watch flashed a reminder. He almost forgot about the first appointment with his eldest son’s new therapist.
Shartho, their 10-year-old son and firstborn child, had been acting peculiar for some time and was below grade level in in every subject except art, at which he seemed to be a prodigy. The walls of his chamber were festooned with illustrations and paintings. But he was acting out at home and flying into raging fits over little things, sometimes over nothing at all it seemed. Lately, he had stopped speaking to them. It wasn’t clear whether he had lost his speech or was just incredibly determined not to communicate for some unknown reason. The whole thing was mystifying. In desperation, they consulted an expert in enchanted development.
Merle N. Shroody, BCSS (Board Certified Sage and Soothsayer), wasn’t what Moonrise would have expected. Instead of a wizened old man with a long white beard and penetrating eyes that radiated a sense of mystical wisdom, he turned out to be a very fashionable young man. Despite his youth, Shroody came highly recommended. In fact, according to rumor, his counseling saved the marriage of Duke Sunbeam and Pearl Pureheart when their happily ever after turned out to be merely sort of alright most of the time.
After examining the boy, he called Prince Moonrise and Princess Trellia into his private study to discuss his findings. As they were sitting down at the little conference table, Moonrise read the concern on Shroody’s face and blurted out, “He’s under some kind of curse, isn’t he?”
“Oh, I’m afraid it’s more serious than that,” said Shroody, who sounded even younger and more inexperienced than he looked. “Thanks to scientific progress, many types of dark magic are treatable now. However, your son has artism.”
Seeing Moonrise’s involuntary expression of alarm, the sage tried to assure him. “Don’t panic. There have been great advances in therapy. I’m referring you to an expert in the field, one of the most brilliant muses around.”
“A muse!” Moonrise said with more disdain than he intended to reveal.
“Do you have a problem with muses?” said the CSS.
“They’re as fruity as rum cakes,” said Moonrise. “All they do is toss around a lot of sparkly glitter about dreams and inspiration and creativity. They’re probably philosopher-stoned out of their minds half the time.”
Trellia nudged him under the table and gave him the sharp look that meant “shut up and behave yourself and try not to embarrass me.”
“I admit the musing profession is not a rigorous science like sorcery or soothsaying, but many things can’t be explained by the hard sciences,” said the sage. “There are documented cases of creative visions, sudden epiphanies, transcendental insights, profound intuitions. After all, we enchanted beings are both body and spirit, you know. Not everything can be explained emperically.”
Ridgeline’s office arranged the appointment with the muse for them. Moonrise wasn’t looking forward to it. If the whole thing were up to him, he would have backed out, but Trellia wouldn’t have it.
“I don’t get it,” he told her in a discouraged mood. “By the time I was Shar’s age I had to master basic swordsmanship and bow hunting and I was taking advanced-placement alchemy. I mean, how old were you when you slew your first dragon?”
“Well, about 9 years old, but it was a young pygmy dragon that was stealing goats from nearby farms,” she said. “And I did it with a hunting party, not as a solo thing. We can’t expect the same kind of achievement from Shar. It’s our job to help him learn how write the story that was meant to be told about his life.”
“Why can’t I just take him camping in the woods and teach him how to kill a man-eating mushroom with only a bodkin for a weapon like any normal boy?”
“Because he isn’t a normal boy,” she said. “He’s something better. He’s a Moonrise.”
As it turned out, an emergency dragonslayer mission called Trellia and her positive thinking away when Shar’s first muse appointment came due, leaving him to deal with the free spirit alone.
But the scheduled time came and went without any sign of the muse. Moonrise caught up on bill paying while he waited with growing vexation at the muse’s lack of professionalism. Suddenly, there was a starburst of rainbow light as the muse manifested her presence to him. Her appearance was true to type—glowing rainbow hair that shimmered like a mirage, eyes that dazzled like two bright morning stars, and a sleeveless diaphanous gown. Both arms were covered by iridescent tattoos of runes or arcane symbols that slowly swirled and changed shape like a sheen of oil on the surface of a puddle,
“Well, we’re off to a later start than expected,” said Moonrise with an indignant tone.
“Inspiration doesn’t run on a schedule,” said the muse.
“Well, neither does family life around here, so I guess you’ll feel right at home. How should we start?”
“I’m waiting to be inspired,” said the muse. “Creative epiphanies always come as a surprise.”
Moonrise gritted his teeth and concentrated on stifling the impulse to roll his eyes.
The muse had a distracted look on her face, as if she was thinking of something far away over the horizon.
“Would you like to meet Shar now?”
“Who?” said the muse, looking confused.
“My son Shar, the one you’re supposed to help,” said Moonrise. He tried to suppress his loss of patience.
“Oh, right,” said the muse.
“Were you having a flash of insight into the problem?” said Moonrise.
“Yes,” said the muse. “Well, not this problem. It was a case from last week. The solution suddenly came to me.”
Unable to disguise his exasperation, Moonrise turned away and started walking up the stairs toward the family chambers. “I’ll show you to his room so you can get acquainted,” he said.
When they got to Shar’s chamber, the door was closed as usual. That wasn’t surprising. The boy spent long periods shut in there, usually drawing elaborate storyboards of fantastic adventures. Sometimes, the imaginary world inside his head seemed more real to him than the actual world outside his thoughts. Moonrise turned to ask the muse how they should proceed but saw only an empty hallway.
The door opened and the muse peeked out.
“How did you get in there?” said Moonrise.
“I’m sorry, but that’s confidential information,” said the muse. “All of my sessions are bound by the seal of muser-patient privilege.”
The door slammed shut before the prince could finish his outburst. Resisting the strong impulse to seize the muse by her silly rainbow tresses and fling her out of the castle, he threw up his hands and marched off. An hour later, as he sat on his private balcony drinking a pixie-spice latte in a rare moment of quiet while the younger children were away on a play date with the Sunbeam kids, he heard a faint musical tinkling sound like distant wind chimes behind him and knew the muse must have manifested her appearance there. Moonrise didn’t bother getting up. Any show of formal courtesy would be lost on this rainbow-addled moonbat.
“We’re all done,” she said.
“How’d it go?” said the prince. “No, wait, let me guess. You can’t tell me because of the privilege thing.”
“Of course not,” said the muse, slowly walking around in front of him but with her back to him. She seemed to be gazing out into the distance in a state of dreamy abstraction.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t see how any of this is going to help us,” said the prince.
“It won’t yet,” said the muse with her back still turned to him. “We haven’t had a creative breakthrough. These things can’t be planned in advance.”
“So now what?”
“Oh, I’ll probably appear suddenly when you don’t expect it and give you an amazing insight,” said the muse.
Then—poof!—she shimmered off in a glittering blur, leaving a dazzling rainbow contrail in her wake as she flew up into the sky.
When Moonrise went to check on Shar, he found the chamber festooned with drawings of complex abstract shapes that looked like strange runes. Before he could begin trying to make sense of them, he heard a crash of shattering glass down the hall, which was followed by a howl of pain and the wailing voice of his 7-year-old son Weyland.
With weary resignation, the brave and noble prince charged toward the field of battle.
To be continued . . .